In the summer of 1988 at the age of thirteen I started my memoirs. Waist deep in the unintentional and unwitting mix of the sublime and trivial I called my as yet unwritten book “Listen for the Train…It’s Carrying Tomorrows Doughnuts”. The title was meant to evoke in the reader both a love and disdain for Midwestern living. I thought I was totally brilliant and before the age of fourteen I would have multiple literary awards showered on me like Gene Kelly in a raincoat. Over several late summer nights I slammed out two hundred pages stuffed with blatantly lifted Monty Python fueled irony bizarrely juxtaposed with a treacle fueled small town sentimentality that would make Thomas Kinkade look like Hieronymus Bosch. I proudly showed my efforts to my parents who gracefully told me that it was a “great start” and “to keep at it”. As an attention hungry child I saw through their words to the core of their meaning. It was a terrible mess. I abruptly abandoned the effort and escaped into adult themed soft core text adventures pirated for my apple compatible computer by the neighborhood hacker.
Almost 30 years later I find myself nowhere foolish enough to “pen my memoirs” but I’m faced with an experience that bears writing about; the continuing adventures of a stay-at-home dad. Armed with a dust buster and a Netflix account I journey through the unyielding responsibility that yawns before me like a dude who had a few before starting to walk on a tightrope the runs over the center of the Grand Canyon. I’ve read over and over that a writer should never make excuses or apologies. This is seen as manipulative and hackish. So I’ll skip those sweet sweet trappings and jump in head first. Dad Blog One. Here it is. Cue the sound of a drum roll played on a Snoopy Xylophone.
“A Barbarian Takes a Sheet”
My thirty-four-month-old daughter is a being who is still at a place where delineating her exact age is salient. Not quite three and definitely not two. Thirty-four-months. Her will is formidable. If she strolled into a room wearing nothing but a freshly removed bear skin with a battle axe slung jauntily over her shoulder I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I’d remove her five year old brother from the room but my gaze would remain unbroken by reaction. Her one fear is being left in the hands of a babysitter. While we’ve been blessed with totally fantastic sitters over the years my daughter remains aggressively anti-sitter (usually for the first twenty minutes of their arrival…or at least until my wife and I blast out of the house cackling like free range chickens). Her response to just about any new person who walks into our house that she thinks may be a sitter (weather they are or not) is to weep and demand to be put to bed. My only guess is that she figures “out of sight/ out of mind”. One of my close friends whom I’ve barely seen since I abandoned Saturday noon wake-up calls for parenthood came by the other night. He’s a warm and gregarious figure so watching my daughter totally reject his presence was pretty unpleasant. My wife at
While I was writing this and I thought my kids were working on a puzzle twenty feet from me my daughter was instead trying to climb a tapestry. It fell off the wall and onto my son who is uninjured but was under the tapestry mumbling the word “typical” with Charlie Brownian aplomb. Drywall anchors can only hold so much.
-PARENTING BREAK 2-
While writing the description of the above incident I heard my son shout “Daddy doesn’t want people on tables” They now have returned to the puzzle.
My wife decided the best course of action would be to let our now despondent child go to her bed. Our evening proceeded with my son being uncharacteristically aloof with our guest who for a non-parent took it all in great stride. After he left and with my son having long since gone off to bed my wife and I prepared to go to sleep. It then hit us that our daughter hadn’t been prepped for bed. My wife quietly strode into her room when I heard the direct and steady request; “Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
Innumerous child psychologists have written widely varied theories on children sleeping with their parents. One could quickly google “children in parents bedroom” and come up with strong pronouncements like “your children will feel safer in the long run and end up graduating from top universities with honors if they know they can come and go as they please into a parents bed…in fact give your bed to your little one and go sleep on the damn roof you plebe” to “Your child will become a co-dependent drug addled mess mired in anxious, neurotic, and possibly violent tendencies if they spend even one night in your bed”. Like any good American parents we ignore advice and do as we think is right. Our son is allowed to have a cot in our room. It seemed like a good compromise and I don’t have to ever sleep on the edge of the bed for fear of rolling my ample frame onto my son. He uses it a few nights a week and usually after having been asleep in his own bed for many hours. My daughter -ever the independent soul- hasn’t slept in our room since she crossed over from the third to fourth month of life. She likes her room and even goes there to have “alone time” which is a rarity for a two-year-old. This night however the wee warrior decided it would be a right jolly party if she got to bunk with ma and pa. Once in our room she immediately put her head on my wifes shoulder, shut her eyes, and seemed to drift off to the land of nod. I fiddled with my phone absentmindedly and then tucked a pillow behind my side (I was a little paranoid about rolling over) and drifted into slumber. Suddenly a cold hand inched its way up my back and a reedy voice whispered in my left ear “There are spiders on your back”. It was a game we had played before so it wasn’t quite as creepy as it may seem. Well. A little creepy seeing as I was already dreaming about piloting a space ship through my manchild dreamscape.
“Honey it’s time for sleep”
“But spiders never sleep”
(Okay…that WAS creepy) “Honey. Daddy loves you. Lets put the spiders away”
(Using her frosty foot) “There are more spiders now. Ahhh!”
“Honey. It’s time to sleep. Okay?”
“Okay daddy. Love you.”
“Love you too”.
Moments pass. Some wiggling. Moments pass. More readjusting. Moments pass. Is my daughter doing some Norse ceremonial dance?
“Darlin’ do you need a pillow or extra blanket?”
“No. I’m just being silly”
“It’s not a good time for silly. It’s time for sleeping”
“Okay daddy. I love you.
“I love you too”
I started to slip back into a deep sleep when I was sharply woken up by my daughter who was now on my head. She had somehow wedged herself up and over my pillow in an effort to spoon my brain.
“Babe! You can’t be there. It’s time for…”
“Daddy! It’s time to sleep. Shhhh!”
“You need you to get down from…”
“You’re gonna wake up mommy! It’s time to sleep. You need to shhhhhh!”
“You’re right. It’s time to sleep. It’s time to not sleep on my head!”
She then slung her body over me and Exorcist style crab walked down my face. At this point her feet jammed into my arm pits and I started laughing uncontrollably which only encouraged her to continue moving her feet around with wild abandon. Did I mention how my wife could sleep though a hurricane? I eventually got ahold of myself and physically moved my child to the center of the bed where I leaned up and very strongly explained that it was “time for (expletive buried deep in my soul) bed”.
Here’s the thing about me and the middle of the night. I (like most folks) don’t make great decisions when I’m tired. The easiest solution would have been to get up with my pillow and journey to the couch. The kid could stay in bed and continue not keeping my comatosed partner up and I would at least get five….at least get four….at least get three….at least get two hours of sleep before my son began his early morning clown parade of needs, wants, and desires. I truly can’t explain why it took me an hour before the morning rituals to zombie my way to my daughters room where I flopped down in a horribly uncomfortable position in her rocking chair resting my head on a stuffed aardvark that was inexplicably wearing a pair of my boxer shorts I thought were lost. I CAN tell you that at 11:50 am (moments after eating her millionth peanut butter sandwich with a side of sliced apples and never touched vegetables) my daughter passed out on the couch for four hours. She looked so peaceful and innocent and all I wanted to do as a fully grown adult was to jump on the couch singing old Megadeth or Slayer songs until she woke up. I didn’t wake her because sweet mother of mercy my daughter was napping…but I wanted to. How I wanted to. Later that day after my wife returned from work I spilled my toosh out the door and went grocery shopping (without the kids which meant it would take 1/5th the time). I was so tired I forgot my wallet and had to shamefully hand back all the groceries on the conveyor belt until the price equaled the loose change in my pocket (enough for milk…the morning was saved) as the cashier rolled her faded denim eyes deservedly towards my sleep bumbling.
My daughter obviously returned to her regularly scheduled time and place of sleep the next night. After eight in the evening I could make out on the video baby monitor the shadow of her battle axe leaning up against the smoldering remains of the evening fire she made in her room to roast the wild boar she trapped earlier that afternoon. My sons lute had fallen silent by the time I drifted into unconsciousness. Tomorrow was to be another day in parental paradise and at least I would be fully stocked with an hour or two of extra sleep.